Daniel MacIvor | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Daniel MacIvor

Daniel MacIvor, playwright, actor, film director, screenwriter (born 23 July 1962 in Sydney, NS).
MacIvor, Daniel
Award-winning playwright, actor and film director Daniel MacIvor (photo by Guntar Kravis).

Daniel MacIvor, playwright, actor, film director, screenwriter (born 23 July 1962 in Sydney, NS). Five-time nominee (and one time winner) of the Governor General’s Award and two-time winner of the Chalmers Award for best new Canadian play, Daniel MacIvor is one of Canada's most innovative playwrights. The broad appeal of his work has garnered a degree of popular success far beyond the range usually associated with experimental theatre. Part of this success is attributable to MacIvor's skill and charm as a performer of his own work. He has toured widely in productions of his plays, setting a high standard for those who subsequently have attempted to produce his idiosyncratic work.

Education and Early Career

Daniel MacIvor received his post-secondary education in theatre at Dalhousie University in Halifax (198083) and spent a year at George Brown College in Toronto (198485). It was during this time that he first encountered the writers whom he cites as important influences on the development of his work, including Canadian playwrights David Freeman, David French and Judith Thompson, and the Americans David Mamet and María Irene Fornés, all of whom tackle dark and uncomfortable subject matter and write dialogue derived from the idiosyncratic rhythms of speech patterns. Following their lead, MacIvor used his actor's gift for mimicry to render a variety of voices vividly and effectively in his writing. This is particularly evident in MacIvor's one-actor plays, such as Wild Abandon, House, Here Lies Henry, Monster and Cul-de-sac.

Another of MacIvor’s early inspirations is the Montréal-based company Théâtre Ubu, led by artistic director Denis Marleau, whose musical approach to theatrical language and action clearly influenced such MacIvor plays as Never Swim Alone and 2-2 Tango. MacIvor uses language rhythmically in these plays and elsewhere both to build tension and to render and satirize habits of thought that approach the level of social obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Work as a Playwright

MacIvor's breakthrough as a playwright came with See Bob Run (1986), a one-woman play written for actor Caroline Gillis. In 1987 MacIvor was invited to join the Playwrights' Unit at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, through which he developed his play Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, which received a full production at the Tarragon in 1988. Since then, most of MacIvor's work was first produced through his international touring company, da da kamera, which he founded for the production of See Bob Run in 1986 and which he closed in 2007, following a triumphant season in which the company remounted four of his plays — Here Lies Henry, Monster, House and A Beautiful View — at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto.

The record of MacIvor plays produced by da da kamera in the intervening 20 years is noted for its range and consistent quality.

Some of the highlights include Never Swim Alone (1991), one of MacIvor's most produced plays, in which the aggression and competitiveness between two businessmen is channelled through a bizarre contest moderated by a girl who the men had met one summer when they were teenagers; four one-man shows created with frequent collaborator, director-playwright Daniel Brooks (House, 1992; Here Lies Henry, 1995; Monster, 1998; and Cul-de-sac, 2002); and one of MacIvor’s most popular plays, Marion Bridge (1998), about three sisters reunited by their dying mother. The last new play to be produced by da da kamera was A Beautiful View (2006), which examines the love relationship of two women from their twenties into their forties as they unite and then drift apart. The closure of da da kamera in 2007 resulted in fewer touring appearances by MacIvor in his own work, although in 2011 he did tour in This Is What Happens Next (2010), a one-man show created in collaboration with Daniel Brooks and produced by Necessary Angel Theatre.

MacIvor’s recent plays include His Greatness, first produced at Factory Theatre (2011), about two days late in the life of American playwright Tennessee Williams; The Best Brothers, first produced at Stratford (2012) and subsequently at Tarragon (2013), about two brothers coming to terms with the death of their mother, who was crushed to death by a drunk drag queen at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade; Was Spring, also produced at Tarragon (2012); and Arigato Tokyo, produced at Buddies and Bad Times Theatre (2013), which uses elements of classical Japanese Noh Theatre to tell a modern love story.

Acting Career

Alongside his work as a playwright, MacIvor is an admired and sought-after actor. He has appeared in productions at DNA Theatre, Theatre Calgary, Tarragon Theatre, and in a number of film and television projects, such as David Wellington's I Love a Man in Uniform (1993), Thom Fitzgerald's Beefcake (1998), Don McKellar and Bruce McDonald's television series Twitch City (19982000), and Jeremy Podeswa's The Five Senses (1999), which earned him a Genie Award nomination for best actor. MacIvor also appeared in the McDonald film Trigger (2010) and the Newfoundland-filmed CBC TV series Republic of Doyle (2010–).

Film Work

From 1989 to 1990 MacIvor attended The Canadian Film Centre, and since then he has worked widely as a screen-writer and film director. His screenplays include two adaptations of his own plays House (1996) and Marion Bridge (2002), as well as the original work Whole New Thing (2005), about a precociously intelligent boy who develops a crush on his English teacher (played by MacIvor), a middle-aged gay man whose career is suddenly jeopardized by the boy's attentions. MacIvor has written, directed and acted in several films, including Past Perfect (2002), in which he and Rebecca Jenkins play a couple who meet on a cross-Canada flight, their future relationship told in an unusual structure of flash-forwards to a day two years hence, and Wilby Wonderful (2004), which features an ensemble cast of Canada's best-known film actors in roles MacIvor wrote especially for each of them.


MacIvor has been nominated six times for the Chalmers Award for best new Canadian play, winning it twice. He has been nominated five times for the Governor General's Award and won it in 2006 for his collection of plays I Still Love You. He won the 2008 Siminovitch Prize in theatre (playwright), as well as several Dora Mavor Moore Awards, an Edinburgh Fringe First Award and a Village Voice OBIE Award (for the New York production of In On It in 2001).

In collaboration with Rufus Wainwright, McIvor is currently working on an opera libretto inspired by the ancient Roman Emperor Hadrian, which is set to open the Canadian Opera Company’s 201819 season. He is also creating a one-man-show with the working title Who Killed Spalding Gray?, based on his personal connection to the late American monologist.

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